Testing the efficacy of a brief exercise intervention for enhancing exposure therapy outcomes

Jaclyn S. Weisman*, Thomas L. Rodebaugh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Recently, it has been hypothesized that a brief bout of exercise could cognitively enhance extinction learning processes theorized to underlie exposure therapy for pathological anxiety. The present study tested the exercise enhancement hypothesis in a sample of speech-anxious undergraduates (n = 84). During the first laboratory session, participants engaged in either 30 min of moderate-intensity exercise on a cycling ergometer (n = 37) or seated rest (n = 47) immediately following a brief speech exposure trial. They returned approximately one week later to give a follow-up speech. Contrary to expectation, there were no significant between-group differences in memory of a brief word list across four recall trials, which served as a manipulation check. Further, all main effects and interactions involving condition were nonsignificant. Post hoc tests revealed that participants who reported higher average perceived exertion during exercise demonstrated increases in an average anxiety composite across speeches relative to those who reported lower average perceived exertion, indicating that trying hard during the intervention predicted worse exposure trial outcomes. The implications of these findings, as well as future directions for this line of research, are explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102266
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Exposure therapy
  • Extinction theory
  • Social anxiety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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